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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 16:10 GMT
Bank raid accused in frame claim
Northern Bank in Belfast
The raid was the biggest in British history
A bank worker charged with a 26.5m robbery has accused police of "hounding and torturing his family and friends" in order to "frame" him.

Chris Ward, 24, from Colinmill, Poleglass, has been charged with the 2004 Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

He was also accused of using a gun to carry out the robbery. Mr Ward is expected to apply for High Court bail.

He appeared at the city's magistrates' court on Wednesday where he spoke only to confirm he understood the charge.

But the court heard that when charged, he said police had held him "longer than the hostage takers" to frame him.

"Police have bugged my house (and) a holiday in Spain, went through all my phone records, my bank accounts, hounded my friends - even going as far as Australia," he was reported to have said, when he was charged at Antrim police station on Wednesday.

"They have tortured my family in an attempt to frame me with the Northern Bank robbery.

Chris Ward
Mr Ward accused police of "framing" him

"Police have failed in all these attempts. They have held me longer than the hostage takers who seized me last year."

A detective inspector told the court he could connect Mr Ward with the charges.

He confirmed that the case against him was circumstantial.

The court was told that the case was based on four main areas: his actions on 18 and 19 December; his actions on 20 December, the day of the raid; his original account of what happened and a works rota.

During cross examination by defence lawyer Niall Murphy, the inspector accepted that Mr Ward had informed police about a trip to the Canary Islands and that he had no criminal record.

Mr Murphy also told the court that evidence gathered from surveillance devices placed during his holiday in Fuerteventura and at his home were put to Mr Ward during questioning.

The rota my client created on the 16th had neither my client nor Kevin McMullan on duty on the day of the robbery
Niall Murphy
Defence lawyer

Ten out of 60 interview tapes, amounting to three and three-quarter hours, involved police going through a detailed analysis of Mr Ward's bank account with a detective from the Financial Investigations Unit, he said.

"Regarding the rota, the police case is that my client manipulated the rota to create a window of opportunity," Mr Murphy said.

When the detective agreed with this assessment, the lawyer told the court: "The rota my client created on the 16th had neither my client nor Kevin McMullan on duty on the day of the robbery."

Stressing that Mr Ward "absolutely denied" the offence, Mr Murphy said he would applying for High Court bail.

Mr Ward was remanded in custody to appear by video link next month.

He was arrested just over a week ago at his home.

The bank robbery was the biggest cash theft in UK history.

Three men have already been charged in connection with the raid.


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